The Count lives on
At the turn of the 20th Century, we were introduced to two legendary counts, firstly Bram Stoker´s fictional Count Dracula and soon afterwards, the very real, John Count McCormack.
Stoker´s 1897 novel captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world, translated into 43 different languages and inspiring over 700 vampire books and films.
(Written for tenor Ross Scanlon´s Irish tour, ´John McCormack´s Songbook´ and first published in the Athlone Topic, July 2017 )
Born in the shadow of Athlone castle in 1884, John Francis McCormack, travelled the world as a very successful tenor, men marched across Europe to the sound of his songs, where he sold millions of records each year and even appeared in an early talkie film in Hollywood.
Never out of print since 1897, some even argue that only the bible has out sold ´Dracula but McCormack was more angel than demon and his success and christian charity work earned him many titles, including knighthood. The difference between knight and day as Dracula could only venture out at night.
McCormack´s voice brought him all the way from St Peter´s Church, Athlone to St Peter´s in Rome and his earliest success was winning gold medal at the Dublin Feis Ceoil, leading to a career as an Italian operatic tenor. The very word tenor, comes from Latin and it means to hold.
Capturing our imagination and holding our attention is something both counts have done as 20th Century icons. Hollywood loves Dracula but it was McCormack who made Hollywood his home.
Selling millions of records every year, McCormack was in high demand and earned a small fortune for his part in the 20th Century Fox film ´Song O´My Heart´.
Still beating, the count´s heart lives on with four unique Summer performances of ´The John McCormack´s Songbook´ by Sligo born tenor Ross Scanlon. A fitting tribute as, the Irish Times has described Ross Scanlon as the most promising tenor in years.
Beginning in Bray on July 1st, followed by performances in Newbridge and Waterford, acclaimed tenor Ross Scanlon and pianist David O´Shea conclude their Irish tour in the National Concert Hall on August 4th.
We are not talking about Phantom of the Opera, Count McCormack was a real character. And the only one worth counting. Crucifixes didn't make him cross, neither did silver and unlike Dracula, Count McCormack was able to make hay while the sun shined.
Even in death, McCormack has managed to make money with 8,000 commemorative €10 coins being minted in his image in 2014.
Used to reaching the high notes, the silver €10 (tenner) coin makes some change for the successful Irish tenor who once earned a staggering $500,000 for his part in the 1930´s film ´Song O´My Heart´.
Born near Athlone´s army barracks, he became the voice of soldiers as the first celebrity to sing the famous ´Long Way to Tipperary´ and nearing the end of his life he came out of retirement to raise money for the allied war effort.
Unlike, Bram Stoker´s imaginary character, Count McCormack was not afraid to enter churches and was awarded numerous awards in his day including being made a papal count in 1928 by his holiness Pope Pius XI.
McCormack was not a monster like Count Dracula as music hath charms to soothe the savage beast, so sink your teeth into some classical music and bring McCormack´s music back to life.
Accompanied by pianist David O´Shea, Ross Scanlon is resurrecting McCormack´s repertoire and relieving the glory of his operatic work, several decades after his passing.
More inviting than Castle Dracula, McCormack also lives on in the museum of Athlone Castle with a special emphasis on Athlone´s most famous son and one of the world´s greatest singers.
It has been a long time since men marched to the sound of McCormack´s beat so bring the count back to life one more time and check out Ross Scanlon´s ´John McCormack´s Songbook´ in the National Concert Hall on August 4th. (2017)